-The Intercept – Paul Blest August 9 2020
This past April, Thom Tillis sat down for an interview with a conservative radio host in North Carolina, where the first-term senator is struggling in his bid for reelection. Tillis has been unable to create much of an independent following among Republicans in the state, so he framed himself as somebody who can stop Democrats from doing bad things in Washington if they take power.
There have been a few instances, Tillis reminded listeners, that Democrats have held majorities that couldn’t be restrained by the filibuster. “There’s only been three times when Democrats had a supermajority, and arguably bad things happened: It was Obamacare, it was New Deal, and it was the Great Society. It’s not necessarily that good didn’t occur as a result of that, but a lot of bad occurred, a lot of things that we’re still dealing with,” Tillis offered.
The New Deal and Great Society, constructed in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively, effectively built our modern social safety net through Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare, Medicaid, and aid to the indigent. Democrats added the Affordable Care Act to the mix in 2010 to spread health care coverage further than it had been, but by no means made it universal.
Behind Tillis’s comments is a radical view of the role government ought to play in the economy, one that hasn’t been en vogue since the early 20th century. But the way he framed it — “not necessarily that good didn’t occur as a result” — reflects the shifting politics in North Carolina, where a thoroughly right-wing view of the world can now be costly in a general election where, amid a pandemic spreading largely through a failure of collective public action, suburban voters are swinging heavily against the party in power.